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82. Preliminary Remarks To Chapter XX

When I was planning a scheme of the present study into the psychomental complex I had in view to include the present part as a series of chapters in the previous PART THREE dealing with various methods of practical solution of problems resulting from the recognition of a series of hypotheses expounded in PART TWO. In fact, it would much better correspond to the factual position of the shamanism in the Tungus and Manchu complexes. However, the complex of shamanism covers such a vast field of phenomena and facts observed that their description would require more space than that of all other «practical ways» discussed in the previous part. On the other hand, shamanism is a complex by itself which may exist independent of other practical ways and thus it may be treated separately as I myself have treated it in one of my previous publications (cf. Essay, etc. 1919). An abstraction of this complex is neither possible nor desirable for this complex forms only a complex within a larger complex, so that the chief hypotheses put as the theoretical basis of shamanism, are not characteristic of the shamanism alone and they cannot be artificially extracted from the complex in order to satisfy minds which want to approach shamanism in its abstraction. In fact in my publication just mentioned, I expounded some fundamental principles underlying shamanism. To understand the functioning of shamanism one must start from the general theoretical and factual equipment of the Tungus. Yet I have a serious objection to giving this part the title «shamanism»; such a title may give a wrong impression that I have the idea of considering shamanism as an abstraction or giving an independent existence to shamanism parallel to Buddhism, Taoism, Mohammedism, Lamaism and other systems, as is commonly done when shamanism is given an abstracted form covering phenomena which actually have nothing to do with shamanism. This will be better seen when the question as to nature and contents of shamanism are discussed, but at present I wish only to point out that by giving this title I had in view only technical convenience of treatment and presentation of the complex of shamanism.

& & &

Every good observer of alien ethnical units is usually first impressed by the differences in the behaviour of the observed unit as compared with his own. The analysis of an alien behaviour and comparison with other groups soon brings the investigator to a quite opposite conclusion, — a seeming similarity between all groups. However, still a deeper penetration of investigation into the details reveals aspects which appear to be peculiar to the individual ethnical groups and which require special technical conditions of investigation. These special conditions are a continuous observation of individuals and groups during a certain, and rather long, period of time in what may be called laboratory and clinical conditions. Indeed, the last condition for the field investigators is out of question. There remains only possible extension of the period of investigation and a great number of cases superficially observed, on which the observer may cheek up his tentative suggestions. Unfortunately, in field work one sometimes comes in touch with rare cases which perhaps will be no more met and the observer's guess may remain unconfirmed [460]. Such are conditions of observers and such are conclusions which may be formed at the spot. However, a great deal of correctness of observation depends on the observers themselves. So, according to the above formulated attitude of the observers, some of them cannot go further than the first impression of diversity on a new unknown complex, as compared with the known one, while in some observers the pre-existing theories may serve as a sieve through which only selected facts will be allowed to pass.

Yet, the scope of observations during the work does not remain the same. In fact, at the beginning of the investigation, there are recorded chiefly facts striking for the observer while the familiarization with the group and individuals observed shows other facts worthy of being recorded because of their special importance in the system of equilibrium of the given geren, seems to unit and not only because of striking features. For instance, a man's abstaining from drinking wine amongst some Tungus is a fact to be immediately recorded, for it leads to other special psychological conditions of the subject, while the same phenomenon amongst other Tungus groups has no interest at all. Another instance; a woman's great tenderness to children, as a common phenomenon, would not attract any special attention, while in the case of some groups, when it occurs, may bring to discovery of some peculiar complex. Generally methods of judgement as to the psychic abnormality of individuals from their attitude towards the society becomes useless, if we do not know the fundamental mechanism of the given society and a great number of details which condition its «nor-mal» functioning. This is the second serious excuse for certain omissions in my observations, for the familiarity with the complex was not equal in groups and was not equal at different periods of investigation.

There is one more serious condition in the observation and in the treatment of the psychopathological cases in different ethnical groups, namely, their relativity. «Abnormal cases» ought to be referred to the existing psychomental complexes as they are observed in the ethnical units. To take for illustration a rough example, — behaviour characteristic of an average Italian in the milieu of Finns would be considered as sufficient for suspecting a certain abnormality, perhaps psychic instability of the Italian individual transplanted, while a Finn transplanted to the Italian milieu would raise the same suspicions as to an abnormality pointing to the lack of psychic response. One more example: an «extravagance» in dress in males, e.g. especially marked inclination to the care and particular attention to the attractiveness in dress, in an ethnical milieu in which dress complex does not occupy an important place and the forms are conventionalized and stabilised, would be sufficient for turning psychiatrist's attention to the sexual complex of the individual, while the same behaviour in the milieu of ethnical unit in which dress complex is not suppressed the extravagance in dress will leave observer indifferent, for it is a common phenomenon.

Indeed, in these cases I have in view only those cases which cannot he identified as pathological conditions etiologically and diagnostically easily traced to the classical cases of psychiatry, i.e. the cases dealt with by the psychiatrist and not by the ethnographer. Within the same ethnical unit even the psychiatrists meet with the cases known in legal medicine as cases found on the line of demarcation between «normal» and «abnormal».

When a series of ethnical units possessing different cultural and psychomental complexes are considered together, the line of demarcation is subject to a shifting in dependence on the existing different psychophysiological complexes and different psychomental cultural complexes. Therefore, when we extend our investigation, both in covering various units, and in going deeper into the details within the same ethnical unit, simplification of diagnosis ought to be rejected and the «standards» previously found ought to be put aside till the investigation is completed. If the observer would take as a starting point of comparison the standards of «normality» and «abnormality» found in his own ethnical milieu it is very likely that he would find many more abnormalities in an alien group than in his own group. As a matter of fact, the impressions produced by the ethnical units one on another — the familiarity with the complexes supposing — usually tend to the conclusion as to the psychomental abnormalities of the neighbour either in the sense of psychic instability, or that of lowered psychic reactions, or that of mental deficiency. These facts are very interesting for the analysis of internal ethnical relations and interethnical reactions which sometimes may lead to the discovery of the characteristics of the psychomental complex of the observers themselves. I now point out these conditions in order to show how difficult is a successful and an absolutely reliable investigation into the psychological conditions of ethnical units. But in spite of all the difficulties, the facts must be recorded and so they are even against the will of observer, sometimes unconsciously, for he must adapt himself to the unit in which he is doing his work, especially concerning delicate matter of «religion and beliefs» [461]. When the process of observation is cognized by the investigator, it is still better from the point of view of final outcome of investigation. On the other hand, by pointing out to the character of observations I want to explain the paucity of my observations in some respects, and their abundance, which sometimes even cannot be used; in some other respects. Indeed, the relative utility of facts to be observed may be realized only after the analysis of the whole material is over, but lege artis all facts must be recorded, so that the abundance of some facts in some degree does net depend on the investigator, if he does not abstract, quite artificially and methodologically unjustified, a certain group of phenomena.

Naturally, in the present exposition I shall not give all the facts recorded, but in so far as possible I shall try to give picture as a ground for discussion of a particular subject, — shamanism in its function of self-regulating mechanism of the psychomental complex, — so I shall leave aside those cases — perhaps quite interesting from the point of view of psychopathology — which have no direct bearing on the subject. On the other hand, I shall dwell on some other aspects which would attract no attention, when found in the European complex, but which have great weight in the Tungus complex.

460. At the present time possibility of field observations is much wider than it was before which is due to an elaboration of special methods of observation. Cf. for instance, tentative programme for this kind of observations compiled by F. H. C. van Loon and R. Thumwald (Un questionnaire psycho-physio-morphologique pour l'etude de la psychologie des races, in Revue Anthropologique, 1930, pp. 262-277) which may be very useful for observers. However, further extension and elaboration of detailisation are needed, as well as special adaptation of the methods for the field-observers. Yet I should like to point out that what I have told in reference to the programs and questions for the field observers holds good for this particular case.

461. Some ethnographers are so sceptical as to their own ability of observation and preparedness for this kind of work that they avoid these investigations and do their best not to see the facts, although they know them, e.g. from their own reactions and ways of adaptation to the people under investigation. As a matter of fact, the investigator who is absolutely lacking tact will be unable to remain even a short time in contact with the people. Practically he must leave the people because of uselessness of his staying even for record of «material culture and social organisation» preferred subjects of investigators. The history of ethnography gives us some instances of tactless investigators who were refused permission to stay with the people; only absolutely tactless «explorers» lost their lives during the work amongst the «savages». In this respect the investigation of «civilised» nations is in a somewhat different condition and the «methods of tact» prove sometimes to be useless. To this question I shall return to another work, but now I shall conclude my remarks by pointing out that in an average case, the record of all facts is not only possible but it is very desirable.

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